ID CARD: 6-foot-9½ power forward, Wake Forest, sophomore, 19 years old
DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 20th by DraftExpress.com; 21st by ESPN.com; third among power forwards by NBA.com
SCOUTS LOVE: For as much as NBA teams are inclined to draft on potential, there’s still a soft spot among many scouts for old-fashioned productivity. In an ACC widely considered the most competitive, top to bottom, in college basketball last season, Collins was admirably productive. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game for Wake Forest. He’s cut in the mold of old-school power forwards, so someone looking for a stretch four might not be attracted to Collins. But he scored with such efficiency – an eye-popping true shooting percentage of 67 – that it’s easy to see evaluators feeling like he’ll find a way to score and, if his range expands over time, then Collins could be a player who outperforms his draft projection. He was the most prolific offensive rebounder per minute in college basketball last season.
SCOUTS WONDER: Despite legitimate power forward size at 6-foot-9½ and a 225-pound frame that looks like it could carry additional weight as he naturally gains strength and progresses through an NBA conditioning program, Collins’ relatively modest wing span of 6-foot-11¼ could limit his defensive impact. For comparison sake, 6-foot-3 shooting guard Donovan Mitchell registered 6-foot-10 and Texas freshman Jarrett Allen, who stood three-quarters of an inch taller than Collins, had a wing span 6 inches greater than Collins’. In an era where ball movement is at a premium to facilitate offenses that need to produce open 3-point shooters, Collins had an abysmal assist rate last season, averaging 0.5 per game. And while it’s certainly not a red flag – and could, in fact, be viewed as encouraging – the fact Collins arrived at Wake Forest as a generic three-star recruit and made a modest impact (7.3 points, 3.9 rebounds) on a middling team as a freshman will require evaluators to figure out the context for his big sophomore season and what it portends for his career arc.
NUMBER TO NOTE: 1 – the number of 3-point shots Collins attempted in his two college seasons. He missed it. Collins might be many things, including physically more prepared than a lot of potential lottery picks to hold his own in the NBA sooner rather than later, but a 3-point threat for a team looking to improve its perimeter shooting isn’t one of them.
MONEY QUOTE: “The thing I can do that translates immediately is my ability to use my energy offensively and defensively, grabbing rebounds, making winning plays, diving on the floor and then also my ability to score in and around the basket, my ability to catch lobs and use my athleticism to the best of my ability. I think they can use that right now when I go to that next level.” – John Collins, on May 11 at the NBA draft combine, on how he can help an NBA team early in his career
PISTONS FIT: Collins could play small-ball center, but by and large he’s a power forward by anyone’s reckoning. With Tobias Harris the incumbent starter, Jon Leuer signed for three more seasons and Henry Ellenson opening eyes as a rookie, the Pistons appear stocked for the foreseeable future. The Pistons, though, have no glaring depth-chart need in this draft and more than ever will take a best-player-available approach to this draft. If they were to take a power forward, the primary consideration might be one who offers a different skill set than Ellenson, on whom they spent their first-round pick last season. Collins fits that profile.
BOTTOM LINE: If Collins doesn’t check off every box on the list of traits desirable in a modern NBA power forward, the ones he does check off – rebounding, a post-up game and scoring efficiency, foremost – he does at a very high level. He came so far, so fast from freshman to sophomore season that it appears any questions about work ethic and desire have been answered. There will be sexier candidates available to the Pistons with the 12th pick, but Collins appears a blue-collar grinder with natural scoring ability. That might not be a package that the current NBA finds as desirable as it would have been in another era, but guys who play hard and can score will never go out of style.